Dulcimer Season is in full swing

Winter is over and mountain dulcimer season is humming and we are entering the time of year where the weather is great and opportunities about to play your dulcimer and/or visit any of the numerous old time music festivals in the north Alabama and southern Tennessee region.

Here’s a few that I know of (click on the links for more info):

  • June 19-21 Summertown Bluegrass Reunion  Summertown, TN  Note: we’re not playing (officially) but many of our members participate in the shade tree picking.
  • Jul 11 – 13 Uncle Dave Macon DaysMurfreesboro, TN Dulcimer Competition is on Friday the 11th. Registration from 11-1pm Competition Begins at 1PM:
  •  ?? Rogersville Bluegrass Festival (did it fold?)
  • Aug 28-30 Summertown Bluegrass Reunion  Summertown, TN  Note: we’re not playing (officially) but many of our members participate in the shade tree picking.

If you know of any I missed let me know.

Full Announcements & Schedule listing

David B

Docent of the Walking Cane Dulcimer

This article from 2011 has some good history:

Docent of the Walking Cane Dulcimer
[Click on the page in the article to enlarge it for easier reading. Also click on the page to move it around]

Donald Graves (from the article above) died this last Monday, 14 April and will be buried 18 April (grave side service)

David B.


2014 Fish Fry & Dulcimer Event Slideshow

Many thanks to Johnny Wayne & Beth McCluskey for the excellent fish and yet another excuse to sit around, eat, and play our mountain dulcimers.

2014 Fish Fry & Dulcimer Event Slideshow

Short video of the hosts, music & dancing

David B

Pine Mountain Settlement School and mountain dulcimers from about 1915

Ethel de Long (1879-1928) taught at the Pine Mountain Settlement School from 1913-1928. At the Settlement School the students gained a basic education as well as hands-on learning experiences in the areas of recreation, health, nutrition, and the preservation of traditional occupations, such as spinning, weaving, dancing, and music.  Ethel became accomplished at many of these creative skills, particularly the dulcimer.

For a photo of Ethel de Long with a mountain dulcimer taken about 1915 and read an  interesting article about Kentucky dulcimers from the early 1900′s go to

for more on Ethel de Long click on https://pinemountainsettlement.net/?page_id=1696

If you go to the article “Dorothy H. Stiles – “Kentucky 1915″”  at https://pinemountainsettlement.net/?page_id=3164 and read through or scroll down about 3/4 of the way is information and two interesting photos about a dulcimer maker named Bristol Taylor. The first photo I especially like, is of Bristol Taylor playing a mountain dulcimer on the porch of his cabin.

David B

A 1977 Tennessee Highway Map & a poem

1977 Tennessee State Map (click picture for a larger image)

About two weeks ago I saw on Mark Richmond’s Face Book page a photo of a 1977 Tennessee Official Highway Map. Mark is with the Grand Old Dulcimer Club in Nashville and a friend had found and given him the map because featured on the front was a painting of a woman playing a mountain dulcimer. When Mark posted the photo on FB some of the speculation was that “maybe” the lady on the map was one of the Carter’s playing.

Soooo….. I had to have a copy of the map for myself. Looking on EBay I found and bought my own map.

Wanting to know if there was a story behind this 1977 highway map, the lady playing the dulcimer, or Steve Brady the artist, I sent an e-mail to Mike Bell, the curator at the Tennessee State Museum, to see if he might know something about the history and background of the 1977 map. I had become acquainted with Mr. Bell last year during the David Schnaufer dulcimer exhibit at the museum. Mr. Bell had also helped me with the research on my vintage (possibly pre-civil war) hammered dulcimer.

Yesterday I heard back from Mr. Bell and he had sent my inquiry to the Director of the Folklife Program Tennessee Arts Commission, Mr. Robert Cogswell. The bottom line is neither of them could find out anything about the lady playing the mountain dulcimer on the map (so it’s not likely to be one of the Carters), or even about the artist. Mr. Cogswell said he doubted that the Tennessee Department of Transportation would still have any records pertaining to production of the annual roadmap from this far back because usually such files are only kept in the state records warehouse for about 7 years.

When I thanked Mr. Bell and Mr. Cogswell for looking into it for me I told them “Thank you for taking the time to look into this for me. This is actually helpful as I mostly wanted to make sure I didn’t miss any interesting story or factoid behind the picture on the road map. The fact that there is no interesting story is, well, interesting to me.” As my map is in good shape I think I’ll frame my map and hang it with my other dulcimer memorabilia.

As an aside, while I was conducting my “research” on the 1977 map I found in the “Tennessee Blue Book” a poem written by Major Hooper Penuel that tells the history of Tennessee from the time it was “an unsettled territory” to fairly modern times. The reason I particularly liked this poem is it has a line about dulcimers. The poem is titled, I Am Tennessee. The stanza mentioning the dulcimer reads:

My music is heard around the world. Blues, soul and rock and roll from the Memphis Delta, Country from Nashville, and the unique sound of the dulcimer from Appalachia. Yes, my history is a proud one. From my early beginnings as an unsettled territory until today as a leader and a state that looks toward the future.
I Am Tennessee

If you like a little bit of regional history (after all, if I am not mistaken, the southernmost part of the original Tennessee territory use to come all the way down to the Tennessee River here in the Athens/Decatur/Huntsville area) you can read the whole poem at http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/103/Bill/SJR0011.pdf

David Bennett

Breakin’ Up Winter 2014

Breakin’ Up Winter by  Louise Todd

BUW2014 (click on photo for larger image)

Nine folks from the Athens Dulcimers spent an enjoyable weekend at Cedars of Lebanon State Park, March 6-9, enjoying the activities of Breakin’ Up Winter. “The Roots of Old Time Music,” was the theme for this year; it is sponsored by the Nashville Old Time String Band Association or NOTSBA.  Their website is http://www.nashvilleoldtime.org/BUW/ This was the 15th year for the festival.

 It was a beautiful weekend and there was lots of jamming’ taking place in the cabins, the Lodge and wherever one could find a spot. Some of us played on the bleachers! Besides cabins, there are two bunkhouses, RV spots and motels close by for those who like a little more comfort and  shopping opportunities!

The weekend featured a variety of learning opportunities for those interested in the roots of old time music.  I really do admire and appreciate those who have spent countless hours finding and preserving the old-time tunes and the history of where they originated. As well as lectures, there were artist led jams and also some great concerts.  There were many folks who donated their time to make the weekend enjoyable. Some of the lecturers and performers that I especially enjoyed were:

  • Alice Gerrard - 2014 Heritage Award Winner, founder/editor of the “Old Time Herald” (a publication still in print today), performer/singer worldwide and preserver of old time tunes.
  • Alan Jabbour – former director of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, fiddle performer with Ken Perlman (banjo), preserver of old time tunes;
  • Ken Perlman – Old time banjo player in the clawhammer style (Roger and Louie attended this), Ken is also a folklorist collector and expert in his field and finger style guitar player. 
  • John Harrod - my fav lecture on the  Kentucky Women who contributed to the early music of the 20th century. “Their music got them through the hard times; music was their prozac.”  Jean Ritchie, considered by some as the “mother” of the mountain dulcimer, was recognized in this lecture, along with many others. Jean lives in an assisted living home in Berea, KY.  Her son carries on her music at many of the dulcimer festivals; Jean and Doc Watson recorded  an album together.
  • Red Mountain White Trash  – the Birmingham based string band performed, they pride themselves in collecting and documenting old time tunes from AL; they ‘found’ “Step Around Johnny” around Oneonta and continue to ‘plant’ fiddle tunes from AL in their travels. Joyce has written a book about these tunes and their origins.

We enjoyed her lecture and their playing at Athens State University last month.

 There were many opportunities for Jammin’ as late as you wanted to stay into the wee hours of the morning all three nights; also, opportunities to hear new tunes; I thought I knew lots of tunes but realized that I was just beginning to learn!  Some serious shopping also took place AND there is already a chauffeur lined up for next year, but they had a pretty good one this year!!!

Time for some good reminders (Jam Etiquette)

Many people from other clubs always want to know what the Athens Dulcimer Jam Group (ADJG) does that makes us so successful. The following is what we tell them, and is also useful for all our members to review periodically: